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It’s funny to leave a paused video locked in a storage unit—so pointed out gallery director Ramsey Alderson, who showed me around D’Ette Nogle’s current show, spread across four units in the West Adams Public Storage building. In some ways, the conceit is pretty obvious: art lives mostly in storage, and this show includes work that Nogle did years ago and thus has had to store. But self-storage spaces have low overhead, sparse lighting, and an artlessness that helpfully counteracts Nogle’s controlled, minimal aesthetic, which can sometimes read as more self-serious than it actually is. In fact, it’s the comic, searching, sometimes-awkward zeal that makes her best experiments in artmaking so good.
Unit 381, the first, fullest, and starkest, contains a belabored 2009 riff on Ed Ruscha’s 1979 painting I Don’t Want No Retrospective (a print-out of his painting cut into 12 squares, each placed in wooden trays). Nearby is a stack of flip books—Flipping Through the Best of 2008 (2010)—pages and pages showing Nogle flipping through Artforum’s Best of 2008 issue, then looking over her shoulder. The energy loosens in Unit 471 with For All the Artists [ Work (A-version)] (2015), a 35-minute stream of familiar video clips of women discovering their pregnancies, navigating them, choosing to end them, birthing. Mia Farrow feels her devil baby move; Ellen Page pukes in a planter—like Christian Marclay’s The Clock, it could easily continue forever, only as a less meta, much more precarious and guttural meditation (it’s “a little idea that comes out of you—and takes a lot out of you,” says Nogle, in the exhibition catalogue, equating childbirth with artmaking).
Nogle’s newest video, in Unit 573, in a way pushes failure further: Stand Up (2019), playing on a monitor on a cart, shows Nogle performing Louis C.K. monologues in awkward domestic settings, her voice strategically naïve: “I showed my penis to a girl with down syndrome down the street—go ahead and judge me, I was nine, I mean, yeah, I’m still the guy who did it.” She goes on and on, in basements, living rooms—her obsession just as dogged and uncomfortable as C.K.’s, but also a slow, thorough burn of patriarchal entitlement’s sloppiness. As it turns out, slow burns—of which the show has its share (the skeptical flip through Artforum, labor pains drawn out across narratives arcs)—play well in a place meant for locking things up and leaving them for a while.
D’Ette Nogle: D’Ette Nogle, 2019 runs from January 29–April 27, 2019 at Hannah Hoffman’s offsite Public Storage (3611 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90018).